If you’re feeling a sense of déjà vu, you’ve got good reason.
It came down to the last game of their regular season, but for the second consecutive year the Yarmouth Jr. A Mariners have finished the season in first place in the Eastlink South Division and will once again play the Truro Bearcats in the first round of playoffs.
Still, in saying this, every season is different and the win-loss records of all teams will be reset to zero as the playoffs get underway.
“We had a great regular season and I’m so proud of our group and how they set records both in winning percentage, overall best road record,” says Mariners head coach Laurie Barron.
“In saying that, the regular season is just a dress rehearsal for the real season,” he says as eight of the league’s 12 teams head into playoffs. “All eight teams start back at 0.”
The playoffs between Yarmouth and Truro get underway on Thursday, March 14, at the Mariners Centre. By finishing first in the division the Mariners have home-ice advantage over the fourth-place Bearcats. (See schedule later on in this posting.)
The Mariners finished their division with 77 points (ahead of their 71-point final tally last year). The Bearcats ended this regular season with 53 points. Click here to see the MHL's regular season division final standings.
During the 2018-2019 regular season, the Mariners had 36 wins and nine losses in regulation. Other times the season games were pushed beyond the buzzer. Three times the Mariners lost in overtime and twice they lost in a shootout, but the team still gained valuable points.
The team also had the second-strongest powerplay in the league during the regular season.
The Yarmouth Mariners have done well against Truro this season, winning all of their seven contests against the Bearcats.
But the Mariners coaching staff isn’t taking anything for granted.
“I have a ton of respect for the Truro Bearcats organization and their coaching staff. They will be ready,” Barron says. “Over the years we have had some great battles and this will be no different.”
Last year’s Mariners-Bearcats playoff series went the distance to Game 7, with two shutouts early in the series and Game 5 going to triple overtime before the Mariners won it after the Bearcats had tied the game 1-1 with 29.7 seconds left.
Head coach Laurie Barron says when it comes to playoffs versus the regular season, it’s a whole different beast.
“You can’t get too high or too low and after a win you get 10 minutes to enjoy it, then you move on to the next game,” he says. “After a loss you get 10 minutes to feel sorry for yourself, then you have to get ready for the next game.”
In the other Eastlink South playoff round, it’ll be the second-place Amherst Ramblers (75 points) – the hosts of this year’s Fred Page Cup – playing the third-place South Shore Lumberjacks (57 points). That series begins Friday, March 15.
Outside of playoff reach in the division were the Pictou East Crushers, who ended their season two points behind Truro. The Valley Wildcats were a distant last-place finisher with 16 points at the conclusion of a tough season for the team.
This year’s final division sprint for playoffs positioning was a tight one.
This past Friday night, the Mariners won 9-1 at home over a short Valley Wildcats bench. But after leading the Eastlink South Division throughout the regular season, the Mariners still needed at least one point in their final regular-season game to stay ahead of Amherst in first place.
Amherst won their last game of the season Saturday night 6-2 over Truro. The Mariners won their last game, also on Saturday and by a same 6-2 score, over the Valley Wildcats, giving them a final two points over Amherst. Had they tied in points, Amherst would have ended up in first place due to head-to-head competition during the season.
In the Eastlink North Division, the Summerside Western Capitals finished their regular season in first place with 82 points. Their playoff opponent was only determined by the league’s last remaining game of the season between the Edmundston Blizzard and the Miramichi Timberwolves that took place Sunday afternoon. Going into that game the St. Stephn Aces had 43 points and the Timberwolves 41 points. Miramchi lost the game to Edmundston 5-1, keeping them out of the playoffs. Summerside will face St. Stephen in the first round.
Campbellton (68 points) and Edmundston (59 points) make up the north division’s other playoff series.
Playoff series schedule
• Game 1: Thursday, March 14, 7 p.m.– Truro at Yarmouth
• Game 2: Saturday, March 16, 7 p.m. – Yarmouth at Truro
• Game 3: Tuesday, March 19, 7 p.m. – Truro at Yarmouth
• Game 4: Thursday, March 21, 7 p.m. – Yarmouth at Truro
* Game 5: Saturday, March 23, 7:30 p.m. – Truro at Yarmouth (Note: MHL had originally said this game was at 7 pm. The league has corrected the time )
* Game 6: Monday, March 25, 7 p.m. – Yarmouth at Truro
* Game 7: Thursday, March 28, 7 p.m.– Truro at Yarmouth
Yarmouth-Truro 2018-2019 regular season results:
Sept. 29: Yarmouth 4 – Truro 1
Oct. 5: Yarmouth 4 – Truro 3
Nov. 16: Yarmouth 3 – Truro 0
Dec. 7: Yarmouth 6 – Truro 2
Jan. 12: Yarmouth 4 – Truro 2
Feb. 10: Yarmouth 6 – Truro 5
Feb. 22: Yarmouth 7 – Truro 2